The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to the father of Aston Villa manager Dean Smith, who died after contracting Covid-19, as the duke opened the football club’s new training centre. William said Ron Smith, a lifelong Villa fan who died aged 79 last year, would have been “very proud” of the achievements of his son who has steered the team to promotion and Premier League safety since being appointed in 2018. The duke visited the team’s training ground to hear about the work of the club’s foundation protecting and supporting communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. He shared a laugh with the squad, joking about the use of modern technology in football and a player who was stopped by police just before meeting the duke. The future king is a keen Villa fan and wore the club’s colours – a claret jumper and blue shirt – for his visit to its high performance centre at Bodymoor Heath in north Warwickshire.